From my book, Important Dates in the Lives of Jesus and Mary:
“Then the day of Unleavened Bread arrived, on which it was necessary to kill the Pascal lamb. And he sent Peter and John, saying, ‘Go out, and prepare the Passover for us, so that we may eat.’ ” (Lk 22:7 8).
“Then they led Jesus from Caiaphas into the praetorium. Now it was morning, and so they did not enter into the praetorium, so that they would not be defiled, but might eat the Passover.” (Jn 18:28).
The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke clearly tell us that Jesus celebrated the Passover supper with his disciples (cf. Mt 26:17 19; Mk 14:12-16). And the Gospel of John tells us that the Jewish leaders who delivered Jesus to Pilate, early on Friday morning, had not yet eaten the Passover supper. How can these two teachings of God’s Holy Infallible Scripture be reconciled?
The solution to this problem is to believe that all of these teachings of Sacred Scripture are true. Those who have faith in Jesus Christ also have faith that the Bible is without error. Sacred Scripture teaches us that Jesus died on a Friday before sunset. The Gospel of John indicates that Passover began the day Jesus died at sunset. The synoptic Gospels clearly describe Jesus celebrating the Passover supper with His disciples the night before He died. All of these things are true.
Since the first day of Passover, Nisan 15, began that year on Friday at sunset (which is the beginning of Saturday in the Jewish calendar), most Jews ate the Passover supper on Friday evening. So then, why did Jesus and His disciples celebrate the Passover a day early on Thursday evening? The answer is found in the writings of Blessed Anne Catherine Emmerich. She describes how Jesus was brought before the Jewish leaders and accused of various offenses.
“Some said that he had eaten the Pascal lamb on the previous day, which was contrary to the law…. Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were called up, and being commanded to say how it happened that they had allowed him to eat the Pasch on the wrong day in a room which belonged to them, they proved from ancient documents that from time immemorial the Galilaens had been allowed to eat the Pasch a day earlier than the rest of the Jews…. The reason was this: the sacrifices would not have been finished by the Sabbath if the immense multitudes who congregated together for that purpose had all been obliged to perform the ceremony on the same day….” (Emmerich, The Dolorous Passion of Our Lord Jesus Christ, p. 160-161)
There is no contradiction between the synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John. Jesus and His disciples celebrated the Passover meal a day early, on Thursday evening. Divine Providence arranged events so that Jesus could both celebrate the Passover supper with His disciples on Thursday evening and also be the Passover Lamb sacrificed on the Cross on Friday. Only those who are lacking in faith will believe that any part of Sacred Scripture could ever be in error.
The above text is quoted from chapter 2, The Crucifixion of Jesus Christ, of my book, Important Dates in the Lives of Jesus and Mary. I’m currently working on the Kindle edition of that book.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.
Roman Catholic theologian and Bible translator